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Island Getaways for Vets a 'Click' Away

Island Getaways for Vets a 'Click' Away

Island Getaways for Vets a 'Click' Away | Photo courtesy of Military.com

Bryant Jordan | Military.com

Bounds cannot say how many vets have visited the site — or even if those who have been there are vets, since everyone is anonymous.

“We’ve not set up for measurement,” she said, and acknowledged that “we’re getting better [responses] out of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. … This is not high volume like Facebook.”

The purpose of the Second Life site is to give some vets, particularly those who wish to remain anonymous, an alternative means of communicating to the VA. “You don’t even look like yourself” in the virtual world, she said.

VHA is not alone among government agencies or veteran-oriented organizations which have set up virtual locations. The Disabled American Veterans has two islands, says spokesman Joe Chenelly — one for the general public and one for DAV members. Links to its islands also are found on its Web site, www.dav.org.

“We are hoping it will enable us to reach younger vets, and we believe this type of outreach will give disabled vets more access to our services,” Chenelly said. Like the VHA’s island, the DAV’s features a plaza, some buildings and an assortment of posters and signs that a visitor may interact with and get information.

And also like the VHA island, it was uninhabited during Military.com’s visit.

“We advertise [our island] in Second Life, we have posted it on our Web site, and we have advertised our island on Facebook and Twitter,” Chenelly said. “To be honest, I am not sure when or if Second Life will take off [as a popular social venue], but if it does, we will be ready.”

Rick Weidman, executive director for policy and government affairs for Vietnam Veterans of America in Maryland, is familiar with the Second Life worlds, but says VVA has not established one.

“Some of the [social networking] things people are using make sense. I don’t know if this does because of the amount of stuff you have to download to take advantage of it,” he told Military.com.

Other sites prove to be stronger.

“Student Veterans of America went from 20 schools [participating] to over 200 just using Facebook,” he said. “Other veterans groups are doing the same thing, with that and with Twitter.”

But currently, while there are a number of “Vietnam Veterans of America” accounts on Facebook — some with as few as three members, some with several hundred — they are local or regional groups.

According to John Rowan, national president and chief executive officer of VVA, the national VVA has yet to jump into the electronic community.

“I’ve got a Facebook account,” he said. “I haven’t even utilized it.”

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